The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) continues to turn up the heat on the auto industry. The agency will be watching automakers closely, Automotive News said early today, as it tries to curtail safety snafus such as the enormous General Motors ignition switch fiasco last year. NHTSA announced its intention in the report “NHTSA’s Path Forward.”
NHTSA said it was increasing the number and frequency of industry audits. Automakers also will face tougher requests for data from regulators. NHTSA also indicated that it would meet with automakers early in any probe even if it lacks proof “to order a recall,” the trade paper reported early Monday morning. By jumping in early, NHTSA believes it can create the trail of evidence needed to push recalcitrant automakers into disclosing information. NHTSA also promised to clarify early warning report rules. Automakers file these reports when their vehicles are involved in severe crashes.
The safety regulators outlined two early steps that manufacturers must now take:
- The automaker must share its thoughts about the cause of the crash.
- If the automaker is sued, they must give the safety agency documents showing how the case ended.
Meantime, Automotive News said NHTSA plans to strengthen its ties with lawyers who represent those suing an automaker. NHTSA plans to use the linkage to learn of “additional death and injury incidents that may be of interest.”
In related news, the agency plans a seven hundred percent increase in the staffing of the defects investigation unit to 380 workers.
Also, NHTSA opened an initial investigation of wheel problems on the 2014 Ford Edge Sport. The safety agency, whose renewed sense of mission under an aggressive administrator, has spurred action on several issues, based its announcement on one consumer complaint filed last November.
Industry observers indicated the move was unprecedented because NHTSA rarely has if ever, initiated a probe based on one complaint. Apparently, the agency is concerned that the issue on the Ford Edge represents enough of a danger to warrant the initial look, the first step in the long road to recall. The probe involved an Edge whose right front wheel fell off, forcing the crossover into a field. Investigators found a broken 22-inch wheel at the accident site. Ford, meantime, promised to cooperate in the probe.
Meantime, under the leadership of Mark Rosekind, NHTSA’s proactive leader, the agency has recently pushed for the recall of more than 2.87 million Ford and Jeep vehicles.